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"Grandma drummer" mystery solved after she sees herself in the paper

The "Mystery Grandma," later revealed as Mary Hvizda, twirls her drumsticks in the original video.
The "Mystery Grandma," later revealed as Mary Hvizda, twirls her drumsticks in the original video.

The pink-shirted, bespectacled, grey beehive-sporting woman pictured above doesn't, at first glance, seem like the kind of musician who would sit down at a drum kit and blow everyone in earshot away.

But when she walked into the Coalition Drum Shop in La Crosse last week, that's just what she did. In two short clips, stunned shop employees documented her drumming prowess, complete with a joyful twirl of her drumsticks. After leaving their jaws on the floor, the anonymous drummer and her pink shirt walked back out of the shop.

On Thursday night, the store posted one of the videos to YouTube, and over the weekend, it racked up nearly two and a half million views. Her new fans dubbed her "mystery grandma," and everyone wondered -- who was she?

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Not even the employees at Coalition could answer the question. Since the store opened, about a year and a half ago, she'd come in every few months.

"She doesn't say too much," says store manager Dustin Hackworth. "She just kind of sits down and starts hammering away at the drums."

Store employees knew that her name was Mary, but that was it. "We didn't know how old she was, we didn't know where she was from," Hackworth says. "She was a total mystery to us. She was like this phantom drummer that would kind of come in and leave no trace."

Hackworth had been meaning to take a video of her, but kept forgetting. On her most recent visit, he finally pulled out his camera. Once she saw him filming, she started "twirling her sticks around and getting into it," Hackworth says. "That was the moment when I knew I had to get it online as soon as possible."

As the video went viral, Hackworth started fielding calls from media outlets wanting to know more about the now internet-famous "grandma drummer." Hackworth wanted to talk to her himself. But he had no way to contact her.

Then, on Saturday, a story about the video ran on the front page of the La Crosse Tribune, the local paper. And the "grandma drummer," it turned out, had a job delivering papers.

She saw herself on the front page, and later that day, returned to the Coalition Drum Shop to identify herself: 63-year-old Mary Hvizda, of Onalaska, Wisc. She doesn't have a computer, and had been oblivious to the online attention her playing had garnered since Thursday night.

Hvizda, who was a member of the first all-girl rock band in La Crosse, had to sell her drum kit after her last band broke up around 1990. Coalition gifted her a new one -- it's getting delivered today -- and the store continues to field calls coming in from people curious about the mystery woman and her mean skin-slapping. Which is the reason this video has gotten so much attention in the first place: She's good.

"It sounds like a boring reason, but working in a music store, you get all sorts of yahoos coming in and dorking around," says Hackworth. "It's unique to find someone who's talented. A female drummer's rare, and then an elderly drummer's rare, and when you get all of those things together it's like a purple unicorn."

Here's the video that got Hvizda noticed:

And here's more about her life, from local news station WKBT.


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